Positive steps for Harris distillery

WESTERN Isles MSP Alasdair Allan has welcomed a “serious vote of confidence” in plans for a distillery in Tarbert, Harris, after confirmation that £1.5 million of equity funding has been made in the project by two investors in the UK and Asia.

The First Minister Alex Salmond has already indicated his backing for the idea.

Dr Allan commented: “The project to create a distillery in Tarbert represents a major opportunity for the Isle of Harris, and the news of such significant investment is a real boost to these plans.

“I have kept in touch with those involved in this project, and believe that it has the potential to be a significant addition to the Western Isles economy.

“While there is obviously still a great deal of work to be done, this latest news is extremely encouraging, hopefully providing good reasons for festive cheer.”

The £10m project has secured significant commitments from two new investors in the UK and Asia, taking it into the final phase of financing.

This means the project has achieved a high proportion of its private equity finance target.

The planning application for the distillery – which aims to provide 20 direct jobs in one of Scotland’s most fragile economic areas, as well as giving a significant impetus to tourism for Harris – has been lodged and is progressing through the planning process.

The project plan also anticipates support from the public sector which is interested in the significant economic benefit the distillery can bring to the Harris, and wider Outer Hebridean economy.

“The commitment of our new investors is a fantastic boost taking us so close to our equity financing target,” said Isle of Harris Managing Director Designate Simon Erlanger.

“Talks are ongoing with other potential investors about the final £1.3m private equity tranche which we hope to close soon.

“We would expect to finalise fund-raising by the early part of next year, to make possible our planned opening date for the distillery in the latter part of 2014.”

“The project is attracting a rather special type of investor,” said Anderson Bakewell, Founder and Chairman of IHD: “those who sees its long-term nature not as disadvantageous but as fundamental to the creation of something of quality with benefits that accrue over generations.

“They’re keenly aware that producing a fine whisky is not something that happens overnight, but draw confidence from the buoyant market and prospect of a new malt with such a rich and unusual provenance.

“They also appreciate that the distillery will be the centrepiece of a project with a commitment to the well-being of these remote islands which constitute the heartland of Gaelic culture.”